“Being an Ayew, I am lucky to be part of a massive family. To be fair, it comes with a lot of pressure but I think pressure is a good thing if you take it in a positive way.”
Jordan Ayew knows what family he has been born into and how much pressure that puts on him as a player.
He comes from a long line of footballers. His father, Abedi is arguably Africa’s best player – dominated the 90s, won accolades and the hearts of many.
His uncle, Kwame, was also a goal wizard – scoring for fun and was a kingpin in the Portuguese league back then.
He has two brothers, Rahim and Andre, and albeit Rahim has had a relatively underwhelming career, he is still an integral figure in the family.
Andre, though, is captain of Ghana’s national team, the Black Stars – won the World Cup at 20, scored goals and is now the man everyone looks forward to seeing at the Liberty Stadium every Saturday.
A family like his does put pressure on him and as its youngest member, the thoughts of it does weigh on him many times.
But he has managed it quite well. Now Ghana’s highest goal scorer in the English Premier League, he is beginning to give a good account of himself.
His nine goals in the just-ended season propelled him past his brother Andre – who is on 21 goals in the Premier League – and Anthony Yeboah, whose goals at Leeds United in the early 90s made him a huge cult hero.
Yeboah scored 24 goals in two seasons for Leeds, making him the highest Ghanaian goal scorer in the League.
It is a record Jordan has trumped but the respect for the man who is still widely revered in this country is intact.
“I think we are talking about one of the best strikers of all-time that Ghana has ever had so obviously it is good achievement for me, my family, for the country as well but it is not really important to me now,” the former Olympique Marseille striker said in an interview.
“I have more games ahead of me so I just need to focus and do the best that I can.”
At the end of the 2018/2019 season, Jordan finished with just a goal – an 88th minute goal that sealed a 2-0 win for the Eagles against Wolves. The season ended in ridicule for the man with many calling for his exclusion from the Palace squad.
He was pilloried for his half-hearted approach and profligacy in front of goal.
His manager, though, kept faith in him for the most part and decided to keep him in the squad.
“You have to look at yourself and ask yourself what you have to do, what you have to change. The manager saw that my mentality has changed and I forced him to give me the opportunity to prove myself,” Jordan said with a smile on his face.
Aside from the training and hard work, Jordan’s introspection has played a huge part in how successful the previous season was.
“It is all about honesty. I promised myself that by the time I stop playing this game, I will make sure that I have no regrets and I have an obligation now…way back, I didn’t realise some little things because I was young and a bit naïve. I didn’t want to blame anyone and you need to look at yourself.”
That careful look into himself has yielded dividends.
Jordan walked away with the Player Of The Year, the Players’ Player Of The Year and the Goal Of The Year awards to cap a bumper season.
“The awards come after but first I have to look at myself and make sure that I am doing the right things on the pitch and the rest, whatever God gives me I will take it. The awards are a sign that I am on the right path and I just have to keep it up,” he said this time with a sort of pride that beamed on his face.
The form has been good for the London club but some 5,000km away in Ghana, he is still the talk of town.
Jordan wasn’t particularly the people’s favourite. He has always been the caterpillar everyone was waiting to become a moth – dividing opinions among football fans and painfully disappointing the ones who ardently gave him their support.
Many still hold him ransom for that one pass that didn’t go to Asamoah Gyan at the World Cup in 2014 but he has handled it well.
He has kept himself in check and his goal numbers particularly for Ghana have been very encouraging since.
None more so than at last year’s AFCON, where he was Ghana’s lynchpin albeit the painful knockout stage exit at the hands of Tunisia.
“I think before the AFCON, I had to change my mentality, to change a lot of things that I was doing previously and I think everything paid off. In life, you get to a certain age where you start to realise some things and you start to think differently and you start to look at yourself. You do not need to accuse people.”
The last decade has been the most disappointing time to be Ghanaian football fan.
Although it has been some of the best years for the game here, the near misses have been too many.
Semi-final exits, final despair at the hands of Ivory Coast and Egypt. So close, yet so far.
It is almost impossible to think that the Black Stars can actually do it and it is a thought Jordan says weighs on the minds of the players.
“When you get there, you know you are just not going to play or be on holiday. You are going there to win. So everyone knows the obligation they have when they wear the Black Stars jersey,” he said.
But there is a thought that lingers at the back of his mind. A little voice that tells him that he might not win it in his playing time. He hopes he wins it finally but he knows that time is running out for him.
“If I do not win it, the young ones will come in and make history. That is the law of the game. If Abedi Pele and Tony Yeboah were still playing, I do not think I will still have an opportunity to play for the Black Stars. This is our time and we will do our best to try and win the trophy and see what happens.”
The thoughts have been telling. The boy of yesterday is a man today and a lot has changed.
The ever reclusive Jordan Ayew is talking a lot more now, making friends and focusing on his game.
The younger Ayew is readying up for the next season with just one thing on his mind – goals and a will to prove his doubters wrong.
By Yaw Ofosu Larbi|3news.com|Ghana